A Friendly Reminder
Don’t forget, you’re going to die.
I get this notification on my phone five times a day. It pops up when I’m scrolling through Instagram, eating lunch, or during a yoga class. They come in randomly, sometimes only an hour or so apart. Then I swipe to see the quote. Some of my favorites so far:
The other side of “sacred” is the sight of your beloved in the underworld, dripping with maggots. —Gary Snyder
So the beauty of the practice is that we can evaluate our lives even before we are on our deathbed. If we are not living the life we wish to live, how can we change that now, while there is still time? —Ondrea Levine
In each thing there is an insinuation of death. Stillness, silence, serenity are all apprenticeships. — Federico Garcia Lorca
It’s about as morbid as it gets and it’s fucking brilliant. Based on the Bhutanese maxim that “to be truly happy, one must contemplate death five times daily,” WeCroak sends you five quotes a day about death. The UI is simple: no fuss, no profile to build, just five quotes in the same type set on the same dark blue background, every day, changing at random times, prodding you to remember—in case you’ve forgotten—that you’re not going to live forever. You open the app, then put the phone away. I mean, are you really going to spend another twenty minutes scrolling Instagram after you’ve been reminded of your mortality?
When I bring this app up, the response is always That sounds awful! and honestly I get it. Death is not something we handle well as a society: grieving has become increasingly private as our culture has become more and more secular. It’s also an understandable fear: one day we will all cease to exist. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Loss is hard enough as it is, and this loss is inevitable.
In the past couple of years, mindfulness has gone from budding pop-psychology term into a full-fledged media phenomenon. It’s often accompanied by drawings of white clouds on a blue sky, photographs of women with beautiful skin, a dusty pink and #liveyourbestlife. And I want these things. I want the fluffy and the polished and the elegant. I want to live my best life. But life is also messy and dirty and I can’t help but wonder if when some people say “mindfulness,” they really mean “pushing it all down until I only need Glossier to cover it up.”
WeCroak’s brand of mindfulness is simple and elegant in its own right, but it is not light, it is not fluffy, there is no sugar. The app is dark and morbid, but it is compassionate and hopeful in its honesty. It’s the tough-love app, the friend you go to when you know the truth, can’t admit it, and need someone to spell it out for you. I find myself smiling when I see the banner pop up: Don’t forget, you’re going to die.
P.S. If you're curious, I first read about the app on The Atlantic. The app's website is pretty sparse, but if anyone wants to buy me any merch for Valentine's Day, that would be the Most Romantic.